CHERRYVILLE — The N.C. Area IV championship in American Legion baseball came down to one-game, winner-take-all for playoff finalists Cherryville and the Gaston Braves.
And as ancient baseball wisdom dictates, anything can happen in one game. Friday’s showdown at Fraley Field followed that well-known script to the letter.
In a contest that went back and forth and featured big innings by both teams, Post 100’s Wes Reynolds finished off a dream game individually in the most dramatic fashion.
Reynolds hit a walk-off grand slam on a 2-2 count in the bottom of the seventh to lift Cherryville to a 12-8 victory and the Area IV crown.
“This is something you dream of as a kid, and it came through tonight,” said Reynolds, who also hit a solo home run in the second inning and finished the night 2-3 with five RBIs.
With the bases loaded and no outs, Reynolds only needed to connect on a fly ball to the outfield to chase home the winning run from third base. Instead, he lifted a curveball over the fence in left.
“When I hit it, I knew it was deep enough for a sacrifice fly, but it just kept carrying. And then it set in – a celebration,” said Reynolds, who was mobbed by teammates at home plate.
The game saw Cherryville (27-10) go up 3-0 in the first inning on Colson Miller’s three-run home run to left, and then 4-0 in the second on Reynolds’ solo shot.
However, the Braves (20-9) muted the home crowd buzz by rallying for seven runs in the third inning after Cherryville made a pitching change, lifting starter Seth Willis for reliever Cooper Sain.
Sain gave up all seven runs, even though an infield boot prevented Post 100 from getting out of the jam with a 4-4 tie.
As the game wore on, Cherryville chipped away at a 7-4 deficit and pulled even in the fourth by scoring two runs without the aid of a hit.
Samuel Duncan’s sacrifice fly in foul territory brought home Reynolds with the go-ahead run in the sixth to make it 8-7. However, the Braves tied the game 8-8 in the top of the seventh when Wes Hall doubled into the right field corner and later scorer on a wild pitch.
In the bottom of the seventh, Post 100 loaded the bases with no outs on a walk, a fielder’s choice and a perfectly placed bunt single by Levi Kiser, thus setting the stage for Reynolds.
Brent Walls, the third Post 100 pitcher of the game, gave his team three straight scoreless innings in relief before allowing the lead-off double by Hall in the top of the seventh.
Ironically, Willis returned to the mound in that inning to spell Walls with runners at first and third and one out, and he struck out Luke Bumgarner, one of the Braves’ most dangerous hitters.
Even though Willis uncorked the wild pitch that scored Hall to make it 8-8, he struck out Jayson Szot with runners at first and second to prevent further damage.
For the Braves, Hall went 3-4 with two RBIs, and Dosi Jonas hit a three-run home run to highlight the third inning flurry.